Any person who has grown up watching Telugu films will certainly remember with nostalgia the 1998 Pawan Kalyan starrer Tholi Prema directed by Karunakaran. On Republic Day, Telugu channel Star Maa played the movie for all to enjoy, and fans proved that even after two decades of its initial release, the cult classic has truly stood the test of time. Several fans of the movie and its lead actor Pawan Kalyan, took to Twitter to express their fondness for the film.
Karunakaranâ€™s depiction of the characters and the close bond between the two leads was meticulously thought out and crafted. Several of the filmâ€™s scenes, including Kirtiâ€™s notorious introduction where she gets down from a car on Diwali night and lights a firework, were a hit with audiences. As one fan on Twitter said, â€śthis scene has a separate fan base.â€ť
Several references to this scene have been made in a plethora of other mainstream films, including Karunakaranâ€™s own 2006 film Happy which starred Allu Arjun and Genelia Dâ€™Souza in the lead roles. In fact, in Happy, the director pokes fun of the introduction scene of Tholi Prema.
Pawan Kalyan as the carefree, vagabond son who gets into disagreements with his father over his lifestyle choices resonated well with the audiences. At the same time, Kirti Reddyâ€™s Anu is portrayed as the foil to Pawanâ€™s Balu. Balu sees Anu for the first time on Diwali night after leaving his house following an argument with his father, and falls for her. The two get acquainted a while later after she sees him save the life of a child and she attempts to get his autograph (Anu's quirk is to collect autographs of the people whom she admires). After a series of interactions, the two develop a strong friendship, with Balu wanting to express his love to her at every step, but remaining hesitant to do so.
But it wasnâ€™t just such captivating scenes alone which would result in catapulting Pawan Kalyan into overnight fame. The filmâ€™s music, composed by Deva, too, played a significant role and has definitely withstood the test of time, with memorable songs such as Ee Manase Se Se sung by SP Balasubrahmanyam and penned by Bhuvana Chandra.
Tholi Premaâ€™s climax is one which really made the film stand out. The feelings that the two hold for each other are made known right before Anu leaves to study in the US after securing a spot in her dream college. Upon knowing that he returns her feelings, she says she doesnâ€™t want to go. The two, however, decide to part ways to honour their individual goals and place their feelings on hold, portraying a sense of responsibility and maturity which was not seen in most films of the time.
The film was the debut venture of director AK Karunakaran, who is known for his romcoms. The movie had bagged both the National Award (Best Feature Film in Telugu) and the stateâ€™s prestigious Nandi Award for Best Feature Film. Tholi Prema has also been credited as one of the films which truly established Pawan Kalyan as an actor.